Tag Archives: Dingo

Your Kelpie is not a Dingo

Many kelpie owners wonder if their dog has a little bit of dingo in them. Some believe the kelpie was bred with the dingo to make them more resilient to the Australian climate. New research suggests this may be bush folklore.

Researchers at the University of Sydney have found no genetic evidence that the iconic Australian kelpie shares canine ancestry with a dingo, despite Australian bush myth.

The paper, published in the journal Genes, is the first peer-reviewed study of its kind to find that the domestic and wild dogs share no detectable common DNA in genes impacting coat colour and ear type.

Professor Claire Wade with Peppa and Cash (right). Photo by Vanessa Saines.

Some kelpie owners and “old-timers” believe the kelpie breed contains genes from the Australian dingo, said Professor Claire Wade in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences.

It has been said that the dingo was mixed with the kelpie, which originally came from Scotland, to produce a more-resilient and hardy dog that could withstand hot, dry Australian conditions,” Professor Wade said.

“Our analysis shows there is no genetic evidence for this from any genes affecting the way the domestic and wild dogs look,” Professor Wade says.

Professor Wade, who is an expert in dog genetics, said some people have come to believe there is a connection simply because the two dogs look similar. They both have pricked up ears, a similar body shape and hair texture, and some kelpies are yellow or cream in colour.

“There’s a bit of Australiana and sentiment here,” Professor Wade said. “We wish the Australian kelpie was somehow special or unique to us. But the breed has come from Scotland and the way we made it our own was by selecting it for our harsh climate.”

The study characterised known gene variants of both kelpie types (Australian kelpie —conformation; Australian working kelpie — herding) and compared the variants present with those in sequenced Australian dingoes.

Genes assessed included identified coat colour and ear type variants. None of the coat colour or ear type genes analysed offered support for a shared family history.

Kelpies in Australia

The kelpie was brought to Australia in the late 1800s from Scotland. They are a herding dog derived from the Scottish smooth collie or farm collie. There are two types of kelpies developed in Australia: the working kelpie, which has been selected specifically to handle the Australian climate and working conditions, and the conformational kelpie, which is usually a single colour all-over and is more likely to live in the city.

The best-known Australian kelpie in popular culture is Koko, the dog in the movie Red Dog.

Dingoes are believed to have arrived in Australia more than 4000 years ago, most likely with Asian seafarers.

The kelpie samples in the research were obtained as part of a larger genetic project helping breeders produce the best possible working dogs. Owners of working kelpies are invited to take part in a survey of current working dogs and their behaviours.

Source:  The University of Sydney

The Australian Dingo is unique

Since the arrival of British settlers more than 230 years ago, most Australians have assumed dingoes are a breed of wild dog.

Now 20 leading researchers have confirmed in a new study that the dingo is actually a unique, Australian species in its own right.

Dingo

Dingoes play a vital ecological role in Australia by competing with introduced predators like feral cats and foxes, researchers say. Photo: Getty Images.

The latest findings provide further evidence of specific characteristics that differentiate dingoes from domestic dogs, feral dogs, and other wild canids such as wolves.

The finding that a dingo is not a ‘dog’ comes after the Government of Western Australia contemplated declaring the dingo as ‘non-fauna’, which would have given more freedom to landowners to kill them without a licence.

Co-author Professor Corey Bradshaw of Flinders University says the classification of dingoes has serious consequences for the fragile ecosystems they inhabit, and state governments are required to develop and implement management strategies for species considered native fauna.

“In fact, dingoes play a vital ecological role in Australia by outcompeting and displacing noxious introduced predators like feral cats and foxes. When dingoes are left alone, there are fewer feral predators eating native marsupials, birds and lizards.

“Dingoes can also increase profits for cattle graziers, because they target and eat kangaroos that otherwise compete with cattle for grass in semi-arid pasture lands,” says Professor Bradshaw.

Lead author, Dr Bradley Smith from Central Queensland University, says the scientific status of the dingo is contentious, resulting in inconsistency in government policy.

“The dingo has been geographically isolated from all other canids, and genetic mixing driven mainly by human interventions has only been occurring recently,” Dr Smith says.

“Further evidence in support of dingoes being considered a ‘wild type’ capable of surviving in the absence of human intervention and under natural selection, is demonstrated by the consistent return of dog-dingo hybrids to a dingo-like canid throughout the Australian mainland and on several islands.

“We have presented scientifically valid arguments to support the ongoing recognition of the dingo as a distinct species (Canis dingo), as was originally proposed by Meyer in 1793.”

Dr Smith says little evidence exists to support the notion that any canid species are interchangeable with dingoes, despite the fact that most canids can successfully interbreed.

“There is no historical evidence of domestication once the dingo arrived in Australia, and the degree of domestication prior to arrival is uncertain and likely to be low, certainly compared to modern domestic dogs.”

“We show that dingoes have survived in Australia for thousands of years, subject to the rigours of natural selection, thriving in all terrestrial habitats, and largely in the absence of human intervention or aid,” Dr Smith says.

“The dingo is without doubt a native Australian species,” concludes Professor Bradshaw.

Source:  Flinders University media release

The Genius of Dogs – book review

The genius of dogsI have just finished reading The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods.  It’s a keeper!

I’ve always felt that many people don’t give our dogs the credit they deserve; they are not ‘dumb animals.’  This book outlines research into dog cognition and what it means for your relationship with your dog.

Hare, who is the founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center, started his research at the young age of 7 with his dog Oreo.  He used a basic cognitive test involving two cups and a treat to test whether Oreo would respond to hand signals.  Later in life, as part of his research, he travels to places like the Congo to work with bonobos, Australia to observe dingoes on Fraser Island, and New Guinea to test a group of New Guinea Singing Dogs.

Here are a few of my favourite excerpts from this book:

  • People who own pets tend to be more extroverted, less lonely, and have higher self-esteem than people who do not own pets.
  • Breed-specific laws based on appearance as opposed to bad behavior are doomed to fail in protecting the public because it is difficult to judge a dog by her cover.
  • In return for a lifetime of loyalty, they (dogs) depend on us for food, the warmth of a loving family, and a good home.  It is up to us to uphold our end of the bargain.

This book is thoroughly referenced with 67 pages of end notes, something I believe is as an indicator of quality.

Enjoy this book, from its first page to last.  I found the book’s dedication particularly poignant…

For all dogs

Re-thinking dog domestication

A research team led by the University of Durham has published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA).  This study shows that today’s modern breeds of dog have little in common genetically with their ancient ancestors. 

Dog domestication occurred over 15,000 years ago – and there is still much to learn!

Years of cross-breeding are the major influence on the genetic differences, although the researchers are quick to add that other effects on genetic diversity will include patterns of human movement and the impact on dog population sizes caused by major events such as World War I and World War II.

The research team analysed genetic data from 1,375 dogs representing 35 breeds. They also looked at data showing genetic samples of wolves because other research studies have concluded that the dog descended directly from the gray wolf.

Lead author Dr Greger Larson, an evolutionary biologist, says the study demonstrated just how much there is still to understand about the early history of dog domestication.  “We really love our dogs and they have accompanied us across every continent.  Ironically, the ubiquity of dogs combined with their deep history has obscured their origins and made it difficult for us to know how dogs became man’s best friend.”

The study also refutes claims of previous researchers that genetic differences in breeds such as the Basenji, Saluki and Dingo were evidence of an ancient heritage.  The Durham team’s study shows that these dogs are genetically different because they were geographically isolated and were not part of the 19th Century Victorian-initiated kennel clubs that blended lineages to create most of today’s breeds.

A Saluki (copyright Keith Dobney)

Source:  University of Durham press release